Switchfoot - 11.29.12

Interviewed by
Switchfoot - 11.29.12In today’s music scene there’s not a whole lot of bands that can consistently put out great albums year after year – San Diego, CA’s Switchfoot is definitely one of those bands, putting out great songs since the late 90’s. I’ve only had the pleasure of seeing the band perform once back in 2007, and I’ve missed out on the opportunity to see much of the band’s newer material live, mainly because they simply have neglected the state of Oregon until this recent tour.

I sat down with drummer Chad Butler before their sold out performance in Eugene, OR.

First off, how’s this tour been so far for you guys? It’s definitely been awhile, you haven’t been in Oregon in a few years.

Yeah, it’s been a little while since we’ve hit the Northwest, and we’re doing our headlining dates and it feels great. We have a history in these cities – Portland, Seattle, and here in Eugene. I remember the first time we played this room here (The W.O.W. Hall) it was on our first headlining tour during The Beautiful Letdown cyclein 2004. So yeah, to be coming back to these places 9 years later is incredible. It’s fun, it’s just a lot of energy. We have a new record so we’ve been playing about half of that and mixing it up from the previous 7 records. So it’s been a blast man, and we’re so thankful to have a fanbase that has come out and seen us record cycle after record cycle.

You have Paper Route on tour with you right now. What can you tell us about those guys?

They’re fantastic, they’re inspiring, I love those guys. We actually have known them for a little while, J.T. did some remixes for us on the last EP that we put out, Vice Re-verses, that was a few months back. He’s just an incredibly talented guy, the whole band is fantastic, and it’s a great fit artistically, a great blend of styles for this tour.

You mentioned that half of the setlist is comprised of material from Vice Verses, whereas the other half is fan favorites. Did you guys entertain the idea of not doing a Vice Verses heavy set, and doing a “greatest hits” type of set and tossing in a few of those songs in?

Well this record in particular we really thought about the live show when we were recording, we tried to infuse some of the drum and bass rhythmic foundation into this album, and that was intentional, thinking about the live show. Often times our favorite songs to play are the ones that can breathe and stretch out a little bit on stage, a bass and drum groove and Jon will jump out into the crowd, Drew will take a guitar solo, etc. there’s just a lot room to experiment and just feel the night and whatever is in the air.

Each night has been different, we’ve been doing the new songs and yet even during the tour, the Vice Verses stuff has evolved and changed – it’s been great man, we’re a live band, we live and breathe on stage.

Is Vice Verses the only album where you’ve all walked into the recording process thinking “yeah, let’s really do these songs in a way to where we can pull them off in a big way live”?

Yeah, like I said we were thinking about the live aspect as we were choosing and recording songs for the record. When we’ve been a band for as long as we have, and looking back on 8 records of material, it’s difficult to think about adding new songs to the setlist because that’s going to knock off one of the old favorites. But I think with this record we’ve been pleasantly surprised that it all translates really well.

Is there a song you’re not playing tonight that you’d like to start playing again soon?

Well, we’ve played every song off the new record at various points throughout the tour. But the ones I’ve enjoyed the most from the new record are songs like “War Inside”, which has this real textural, rhythmic blend of electronic beats and live drums which is a lot of fun. The other song that I’ve enjoyed so much lately is “Dark Horses”, which has a good heartbeat behind it, it’s inspired by homeless kids in our hometown of San Diego, CA, and we do this event called the Bro-Am every year which is a charity fundraiser surf contest and music festival. The kids that festival benefits come down to the show and hang out with us for the day; they’re so inspiring, they’re dealt a really hard situation in life and yet there’s all this hope in their eyes. So yeah, singing that song every night brings me right back home.

I’ve been told that at the end of the night during the Anberlin tour Jon had introduced “Where I Belong” as the song you would want to close your career with. What about the song kind of encompasses the ethos of the band?

Well, I think that the most personal songs end up becoming the most universal, and we’ve always gravitated towards really honest songs, songs that really speak to ourselves such as a song like “Dare You To Move” – each night we’re throwing that song out there, but we’re singing it inward at the same time, I think it still rings true all these years later. So yeah, I’d say that one definitely encapsulates the ethos of the band - the challenge of not being satisfied with the way things are and knowing that the world can change, and that we can change.

Let’s talk about the band’s new project Fading West – It’s not a documentary…it’s sort of a “rockumentary” of sorts. You conclude filming in about a week, right?

Yeah, in a few weeks, we have a few more things to shoot in California in November, and then we’re going to be recording our new album, which is the soundtrack to the movie. It’s been a dream come true, we’ve been talking about the idea of planning a tour around the world and hitting all of our favorite surfing destinations, and this year we finally got to do that. The movie is equally about the journey that we’re on as musicians, being inspired by these locations and letting these locations and people inspire the music, so we’ve been recording songs in all these places like New Zealand/Australia, Indonesia, Africa, California, etc., sort of documenting the whole process and letting the music be informed by the journey.

Is there a story or experience through the filming process that really sticks out in your mind?

Yeah, we just had the opportunity to go back to South Africa. We had been there previously about 7 years ago and met this children’s choir there comprised of these AIDS orphans living together in this village. We got to see these kids again and have them come up on stage with us and sing with us in Cape Town, and that was one of my favorite moments. I think that will be a really moving part of the film, just because we’ve had this relationship with these people for a number of years now and I’ve stayed in touch with them and helped them with their music, and to have them come and collaborate with us in Africa was a dream come true.

What have some of the writing sessions been like when you’ve got together to write some of the soundtrack?

It’s been interesting you know – typically a Switchfoot record will start with Jon and a guitar, then we’ll build the framework of a song around that. But this time there’s been a lot more space to have new experimentation, finding instruments in the locations we go – for instance, Drew finding a guitar on the side of the road in Africa made out of a gas can, being inspired by the unique sounds that it had, and we began to record this musical bed and that’s informing the next level of the song that’s being written on top of this musical inspiration. I guess it’s allowed us to start from the ground up, and let the sounds that we’re finding exist without necessarily melody or a lyric yet, and just have a landscape of sound.

So it’s more of a cinematic structure?


And these songs are longer than what your normal Switchfoot song would be?

They may be, I think there’s going to be room to breathe on the album that we haven’t allowed ourselves in the past. You know, I think there’s that cinematic idea in the back of your mind that your creating something that doesn’t have to be a 3 minute pop song.

I understand that Jon’s been playing a new song called “Against The Voices” at his post-show acoustic bus sessions. That’s confirmed to be on the soundtrack, correct?

I’d say at this point, yes. I really hope it does, we’ve been working on that song throughout the year in different locations, especially in Australia/New Zealand. So I do believe it’ll be on the soundtrack.

Lyrically, can you give us a background on what that song’s about?

I think the lyrics are actually up online, we’ve played it before in a soundcheck in Amsterdam or something and someone put up a YouTube video. It’s a song that resonates a lot with me, all of us fight the demons inside of our head and those voices of doubt, and each day it’s a battle and a struggle.

Would you consider making that song the single off the album, if there was one at all?

Yeah, that will probably be the last worry at this point. We’re approaching it so different than a typical Switchfoot record, the way you would normally think of a record – which songs are going to make the record. That’s a bit more of a commercial format, whereas this is a bit more free.

Is Fading West still slated for a July 2013 release? If not, when can we expect it?

I hope so, the Bro-Am is going to be in July, and we’re hoping to release the film and music around the same time.

Are there any early details on the Bro-Am so far that you can share?

Well, we’re always excited to have new musical guests and talking to different artists that are interested in helping these kids and raising awareness for homelessness. I’m always blown away by the people that donate their time to be a part of it – Jason Mraz, Chris Shiflett from the Foo Fighters, OK GO, A Fine Frenzy…people that have shown a real commitment to the cause, it’s great.

What does the band’s schedule look like after this tour? Are you guys going to settle down at home and work on the film while Jon works on his new solo record?

No, we’re going to dive right in to finishing the album, and that’ll probably take 3 to 4 months, and during that time Jon’s going to be putting out the new Fiction Family album (with Nickel Creek’s Sean Watson). But no plans yet on a solo album release date for him quite yet, the Fiction Family will be the next thing that he’s announced.

Is he looking at having the solo album out sometime in 2013 though?

I’m not quite sure, although I personally can’t wait, I love his solo songs and they’re great.

When you were writing and recording Hello Hurricane, you ended up with quite a bit of material that didn’t get released. Can we look forward to hearing some of that stuff later on down the road, maybe in the format that Eastern Hymns For Western Shores was released?

Possibly, I think there’s still some of those songs that are kicking around and have morphed with new ideas. They’ll either come out as part of this new batch of songs for the new record, or some further junction down the line, maybe we’ll be able to put out some of those rarities.

I think Switchfoot has done a really good job about being pro-active and making a difference in the world. Once you guys “call it a day” and move onto different projects, is that what you would want people to remember your band by?

We take the music very seriously and we don’t take ourselves too seriously, so hopefully there’s a legacy of music that connects with people, and we want to be singing songs of hope and hopefully make a difference through the music itself. The charitable work is something that is an honor to be a part of, to tell someone else a story and to shine a light on people that are doing great things, and that’s really all our role is, and that is to be storytellers.

Anything else you’d like to add?

We have a band motto – “Life is short, live it well”.
Displaying posts 1 - 12 of 12
11:50 AM on 11/29/12
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barkjon's Avatar
great interview and great band.

Switchfoot used to be one of my favorite bands. first band I ever saw live, too.
11:54 AM on 11/29/12
A Waste Of A Time
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avarice14's Avatar
Though I think the new album is one of their weakest releases, it's good to see a now pretty old band still doing cool stuff like this. The whole film/soundtrack idea sounds nifty, looking forward to checking that out.
12:41 PM on 11/29/12
False. Black bears.
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OurLadyCoolbean's Avatar
Though I think the new album is one of their weakest releases, it's good to see a now pretty old band still doing cool stuff like this. The whole film/soundtrack idea sounds nifty, looking forward to checking that out.
I agree with everything you said. Vice Verses had some great songs and it had some of the worst songs they've recorded IMO. Cautiously excited for Fading West.
02:22 PM on 11/29/12
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indiesuperman's Avatar
I'm really glad other folks were as disappointed with Vice Verses as I was. For as much as they tried to evolve their sound, they completely overreached. I hope Fading West finds them evolving and experimenting with a little more objectivity to the strengths of the band.
03:54 PM on 11/29/12
We never met, you and I
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awakeohsleeper's Avatar
Great interview!
03:56 PM on 11/29/12
Cool. Cool, cool, cool.
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Jamos4184's Avatar
Such a great band and awesome dudes. My band got to open for them and The Rocket Summer back in April and they played "Company Car" - it was awesome.
03:57 PM on 11/29/12
Cool. Cool, cool, cool.
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Jamos4184's Avatar
Also, Paper Route is an INCREDIBLY underrated band. I hope this tour has been really good for them. The Peace of Wild Things is easily one of favorite albums this year
09:13 PM on 11/29/12
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radxbandit's Avatar
I'm really glad other folks were as disappointed with Vice Verses as I was. For as much as they tried to evolve their sound, they completely overreached. I hope Fading West finds them evolving and experimenting with a little more objectivity to the strengths of the band.
disagree completely. i've been a fan since beautiful letdown came out, and i think vice verses is far and away the most consistent thing they've put out since then. love that album. would love to hear that material live.
12:19 PM on 11/30/12
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pray_tell's Avatar
Vice Verses was extremely solid. Very excited and optimistic about this next record!
12:26 PM on 11/30/12
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I'm really glad other folks were as disappointed with Vice Verses as I was. For as much as they tried to evolve their sound, they completely overreached. I hope Fading West finds them evolving and experimenting with a little more objectivity to the strengths of the band.
I actually would have said they underreached. I don't know, I thought they should have experimented more. Not that I didn't enjoy it a lot, and not that I didn't see flaws in it, but I think their sound has remained pretty consistent from The Beautiful Letdown on. That's my two cents, but I do understand that some stuff on the album might have weirded you out or something, and that's okay. I think I might be trying to be a little bit too conciliatory here, but whatever.
09:07 PM on 01/22/13
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Hello Hurricane is their best easily. Vice Verses would be second. I just wish they would have left thrive straight acoustic

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